Benjamin and Liam go to school

This morning, we had our annual parent/teacher meeting at B’s school.  Unlike last year, when I went into the meeting full of stress and worry because B was struggling, this year I was excited instead to hear about the progress he’s been making.

Dan took the morning off so that we could both be there, and we took Liam along, with the intention of having him join us at the meeting.  When we arrived and dropped B off at his class this morning, Sylvia (the teacher who speaks almost no English) explained that we’d have the meeting just with Stefanie (the teacher who speaks some English).  She also offered to keep Liam in class with B while we had the meeting, which was a fun surprise.  When we asked Liam if he wanted to stay with B, he was so excited that ran off without even a look over his shoulder.  No worries.  No hesitation.

The meeting went great.  We found out that B is doing very well (which we pretty much knew, but it was good to hear it from the teacher).  He seems to finally feel at home in his class.  He plays with his friends (though sometimes they get a little wild), understands most of the German they use with him, faces frustration with more resilience and does many things independently.  He loves going on outings with the class and loves to talk to everyone.  He has really integrated with the group.  He’s young in his class (a July birthday in a system in which the year-end cutoff is September 1) but is now enjoying showing the younger class how things work.  (In his teacher’s words, “He knows he needs to take care of them and really likes to show them how things work.”)  He has a few challenges with some of the fine motor skills they’re working on (using scissors and holding a pencil correctly), but nothing out of the ordinary for his age.  He loves to run and play outside, and is learning patience for skills and games that require him to sit still.  He behaves well and seems to be thriving.  What a difference a year makes.

And though he still struggles a bit with more advanced German communication (he uses many words but not many sentences) his teacher reminded us that since he won’t be staying in German-speaking schools, speaking fluent German really isn’t essential, and it isn’t anything to be worried about.  I needed that reminder.  I focus so much (for myself mostly, but I’m starting to see that I do it with the kids too) on accomplishing things and excelling that I can lose the wider perspective.  In my mind, success in school is a goal for itself, but it doesn’t really need to be.  In reality, the other skills he is learning (patience, resiliency, playing well with others, cooperation, overcoming the massive challenge of being in a school where he doesn’t speak the language or know the culture) are so much more fundamental and beneficial to his life than specifically learning German (which is truly more a fringe benefit to this experience).  He’s doing great.  What he has learned and accomplished has nothing to do with conjugating verbs.  Measuring his success by what matters most, he’s surpassed everything I could have wanted for him by becoming a happily integrated member of his class and by facing each day with enthusiasm for the fun of preschool instead of dreading the challenges.

We thanked the teachers for everything, too.  We’ve accomplished more for Benjamin in the past year and a half, together with his teachers, than I think we could have on our own.  Their persistence and kindness and willingness with him, their lofty expectations for him, their warm welcome to of ALL of us, have all created such a nurturing environment for B.  I feel so lucky to have our kids at this school (and we told them so).

It was a great meeting.

And when we went back to pick up Liam, the boys were playing together with some of Benjamin’s best friends.  They were engrossed with building a wall to a fort out of cushions and didn’t notice us while we watched them.  When they saw us, they both ran up to us for hugs.  Liam didn’t want to go home.  B didn’t want him to go.  Just that — how happy they are to be there — is as good of a status report as any other.

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